Something seemingly intangible separates good performers from the great ones. If you watched any of the 2016 Olympic Trials, you know what we’re talking about.
How does Michael Phelps continue to dominate the sport of swimming? At 41, how is it that Bernard Lagat beat out distance runners half his age to make his fifth Olympic team?
Many times we chalk it up to a “special sauce.” We imagine that athletes like these are in on a secret their rivals aren’t.
But the truth is, their feats are a result of much more than that. They come from years of hard work and training. They’re a culmination of all the little things done in preparation behind the scenes when the cameras are off.
The same can be said of the success of the world’s best digital marketing agencies. When it comes to winning — new business, that is — they understand that there’s no one secret to getting it right.
Convincing new clients to come on board is often the result of a long and complicated process that requires focus, patience, and planning. Average agencies take shortcuts, but the best take their time.
If “new business acquisition” were an Olympic event, these would be the habits and abilities of marketing medalists.
1. They can become experts in just about anything
Successful agencies understand they have to be able to adapt. Not only do they need to accurately capture a client’s brand voice, but they have to fully understand their field as well.
They need to know the challenges that face the industry, and best practices — which tactics work and which don’t. Many agencies take the easy route and stick to an industry they know, like law or real estate — but the best are masters of research.
They flip through reports, conduct interviews, and hop on conference calls to learn the ins and outs of an industry. They exhaust every resource available to immerse themselves in the client’s world. Often they’re rewarded with new business as a result.
2. They’re resourceful
If you’re a full-service digital marketing agency, you may have employees on staff to handle all your client’s needs. However, if you specialize in one particular niche, like SEO or copywriting, you might be called upon to do tasks you don’t offer, like graphic design.
When that happens, you’ve got yourself an opportunity to win more business. Prepare for it by building relationships with freelancers outside your industry who can handle work at a moment’s notice.
Reach out to them when your client asks if you can handle a task that wasn’t agreed upon in your original contract. If you plan to use them from the get-go, be transparent with your prospect about it. Openness and clarity from the beginning set the foundation for a productive business relationship.
3. They prove they’re up to the task
Great agencies know that when it comes to winning more business, numbers speak louder than words.
How much revenue did you produce for your last client using Google Ads? How much brand awareness did that Facebook campaign generate?
Make sure you’re keeping track of all the results you produce for your clients. When your next prospect asks what you can do for them, you’ll have cold hard proof that you can deliver.
4. They listen first and advise later
During meetings and calls with prospective clients, winning agencies understand that listening is more important than anything else.
They leave their marketing buzzwords and boastful pitches at the office and let the prospect do the talking. Once they’ve evaluated their target’s needs, they hit them with all the relevant services they can offer.
5. They prepare the right case studies
As much as great agencies know that numbers speak louder than words, they understand that those numbers have to be the right ones to make an impact.
If they’re pitching a fashion business a guerilla marketing campaign, they come prepared with examples of times it’s worked for similar clients before. Positive statistics from other campaigns in different industries might show you can get results, but they won’t convince your prospects like more relevant ones will.
6. They bring home hardware
We don’t care about shiny trophies, and you may not either — but successful agencies know that some clients do.
When big-name businesses hunt for agency representation, many times they forego in-depth research and instead look for outward indicators of high performance — like Clios or AAF Awards.
Great agencies make it a habit of entering their work to a number of awards contests every year. Many times, beefing up that trophy case can land you more well-known clients.
7. They assemble the right team
Many times, prospective clients don’t just want to know they’re in good hands — they want to know who those hands belong to.
When putting together a team to work on a particular contract, it’s important for many in-house marketing teams to meet the agencies who will be working with them. Building rapport at an early stage of the game helps foster better communication going forward.
Better communication leads to better trust, which is a big issue for a majority of marketers, the Agency Management Institute discovered.
8. They make themselves available
It takes businesses an average of around 90 days to decide which agency to hire. Good marketers start out strong, promptly answering emails and returning phone calls, but eventually they fall off — giving priority to current sources of revenue over prospective ones.
The best agencies, however, can handle both. Whether it comes down to better delegation or investing in marketing automation, great marketers know how to manage their time effectively to win the long game.
9. They ask for recommendations
According to a report from AMI, agencies end up on a prospect’s radar via recommendations:
“Recommendations by business contacts is the most frequently cited source of prospective agency names when organizations are developing their initial list of agencies to consider. Industry experts are second, and recommendations by other vendors or service providers are mentioned by 45% of respondents.”
Good agencies provide quality service and hope they get a recommendation from their clients, while great marketers aren’t afraid to ask for one.
Considering 80% of clients say they’re happy to give a recommendation, as long as you’ve fulfilled your end of the contract, it’s not a question likely to be answered with “no.”
10. They cooperate
Like a relay team can’t rely on one leg to win a whole race, a digital marketing agency can’t rely on just one team to win new business.
Research from MarketingProfs shows that businesses enjoy 38% higher sales win rates when their marketing and sales teams work together. Good ones try to integrate both teams, but the best make it a priority.
11. They’re active on LinkedIn
Research shows LinkedIn is the most valuable social media platform for B2B marketers — even more than Facebook.
Mediocre agencies treat the LinkedIn as an afterthought, while the best ones use it to build authority, network, and generate new business leads.
12. They focus on value over price
Unless you’re focused on being an affordable solution for smaller businesses, selling your services based on price is a bad idea.
Average agencies sell themselves by saying “This is what X or Y package will cost you,” whereas the best ones say “With our X package, you’ll get increased brand awareness, search engine visibility, etc.”
They first focus on value, and only discuss price after the client has either determined the services they’ll need, or specifically asked about it.
13. They submit a great proposal
When it comes to writing a great proposal there are countless barriers to success: procrastination, lack of time, the dreaded “writer’s block,” etc.
Without an exceptional one, though, you won’t stand out from the pile of documents sitting on your prospect’s desk.
Good marketers use a template and edit a few key points, while the best write a proposal tailored to their prospect, ensuring to:
- Leave jargon to a minimum
- Keep the focus on the prospect
- Write a draft quickly and painstakingly edit
- Be clear about their USP
When a mistake as simple as a typo can get an agency completely disqualified from earning a client’s business, great marketers know that a proposal can’t be submitted before it’s absolutely perfect.
14. They can condense big ideas into small packages
“Everything should be explained simply, but not simpler,” Albert Einstein allegedly once said.
Great agencies understand that. They know that big ideas are what get businesses excited about working with them — but they also know that they’re not enough to win a client over.
It’s the plan — the roadmap to the end result that gets them to sign on the dotted line. That’s why marketing agencies appeal to a prospect’s emotion by unveiling the big idea first, then describe the step-by-step strategy they’ll use to bring it to fruition.
15. They embrace inbound marketing techniques
Good agencies spend a lot of time chasing new business around, while great ones let it come to them.
By embracing inbound marketing techniques like SEO, content creation, and influencer outreach, they can prepare to be found by inquisitive prospects instead of screaming “look at me!” like most companies do with banner ads and annoying pop-ups.
Think like marketing leader, HubSpot, and combine free, valuable resources with highly optimized post-click landing pages to generate new business leads.
16. They have passion
At the end of the day, while working at an agency is just that — work — great marketers appreciate that they get to exercise their creative muscles more often than the average 9-to-5’er.
While most industry outsiders would rather watch paint dry than write a 2,000-word blog post or design packaging for an e-commerce brand, the best in the field wouldn’t trade it for anything. They revel in finding creative solutions to business problems — and prospective clients, it shows.
They can easily tell the difference between an agency that’s going through the motions and one that’s passionate about what they do. Which one do you think they’ll want to invest in?
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